Saturday, November 20, 2010
The Ones Who Got Away (or the might have beens)
Reminiscent fond thoughts of old loves coast through our minds as we reach the so-called declining years.
We drench these lost loves in a golden hue of iridescence, the dream of the possibility surely out-romancing the hard practicalities of the shared domesticity that would have ensued.
I was reminded of this as I did my round of blog updates this morning. One of my favourites is my friend Twilight's over at Learning Curve on the Ecliptic where she wrote about Princess Margaret (sister to the queen) and her doomed love affair with Peter Townsend, her father's equerry.
I've had a few of these in my time.
I remember Tony, tall handsome Tony, who came upon me one day as I played piano in my aunt's house. He was the first cousin of my first cousin on the other side. Home from English boarding school for the summer. Talking like a toff. We were both sixteen. I fell in love with the lock of blond hair falling down his forehead and the way he spoke as if marbles were in his mouth. I can still see the cravat (a paisley pattern) he affected at the throat of his cream coloured shirt and the jodhpurs he wore (though I never did see a horse underneath them).
He was intense, was Tony, talked of Greek and Latin and "Lit" and Oxford aspirations. He gripped my hand so tightly in his before he kissed it. Bemoaned the fact that his fellow townspeople, a hotbed of Irish republicanism, now mocked him for becoming a "West Briton". He was misunderstood, he was isolated. I thought of Byron when I listened to him, of Childe Harold. I thought of a wedding in June when we were eighteen and his family's wealth giving me my very own horse along with matching jodhpurs.
And then his family and my family put a stop to all of it. No more picking flowers in meadows and him reading now forgotten "Lit" to me.
Enough, they said. Quite enough. He's your cousin. Sort of.
I mourned him for a solid month when I was banished back to the city of Cork. A whole month is a lifetime when you're sixteen.
He wrote me care of a friend. Twice, I think. I wrote him back, I think. And polished his memory a little brighter whenever I thought of him, infrequently, over the years. He had an unfortunate marriage in London they told me and had never made anything of himself. He wound up as a London cabbie.
I didn't want to hear that, of course. I wanted to think of him as an Oxford Don, spouting "Lit" from a podium to his enraptured pupils. His blond locks still tumbling attractively on his forehead as he emphasized a point.
These long lost loves, never grow old or bald or have prostate problems or bad breath.
They lie burnished in satin lined boxes, glowing in the bloom of everlasting youth.